From Britain, with Love - and Focus Groups

The Iranian presidential campaign of Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf, "a conservative former revolutionary guard air force commander whose candidacy has the blessing of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei," is patterned after that of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, reports the Guardian. "The Qalibaf campaign is deploying focus groups," using them to compile "a list of 10 key priorities, including unemployment, inflation, social security and quality of life issues." In the campaign office, "strategists and policy wonks confer daily on how to market Mr. Qalibaf ... to Iran's vast army of young voters as a vigorous moderniser." The campaign is playing down Mr. Qalibaf's "strong religious convictions," showing him "without a beard" and "moonlighting as a commercial pilot for a local airline." Some Iranian reformers are criticizing "Mr. Qalibaf's carefully honed image of studied reasonableness," pointing to his 1999 call to crack down on student demonstrators.